Our galaxy, Milky Way, is "oblique and twisted" and not flat as previously thought, new research shows.
Analysis of the brightest stars in the galaxy shows that they are not on a flat plane as shown in academic texts and popular scientific books.
Astronomers from the University of Warsaw speculate that it may have deviated from the form of previous interactions with nearby galaxies.
The new three-dimensional map has been published in the journal Science. [1
"The internal structure and history of the Milky Way is still far from understood, in part because it is extremely difficult to measure distances to stars in the outer regions of our galaxy," she said.
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To get a more accurate picture, Dr. Skowron and her colleagues measured the distance to some of the brightest stars in the Milky Way, called Cepheid variable stars. These are massive young stars that burn hundreds, if not thousands of times brighter than our own sun. They can be so bright that they can be observed at the very edge of the galaxy.
Not only that, they also pulse at regular intervals at a rate directly related to their brightness.
This allows astronomers to calculate their distances with great precision.
Most of the stars were identified by the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE) at Las Campanas Observatory (LCO) in Chile's southern Atacama Desert. Przemek Mroz, a member of the OGLE team, said the results were surprising.
"Our results show that the Milky Way is not flat. It is rotated and rotated far away from the galactic center. Warping may have happened through past interactions with satellite galaxies, intergalactic gas or dark matter (invisible material found in galaxies if little known). "
The Polish results support an analysis of Cepheid variable stars published in February in the journal Nature Astronomy by astronomers from Macquarie University in Australia and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.